Dr. Stuart Kauffman Presents Two Lectures on October 23, 2008
Dr. Stuart Kauffman
Director of Institute for Biocomplexity and Informatics (IBI)
University of Calgary
"Are Cells Dynamically Critical?"
11:00 am - 12:15 pm
Billings North Lounge
Cells are underpinned by some 30,000 genes which regulate one another's activities in a vast genetic regulatory network. Mathematical models of such networks demonstrate that they behave in three possible regimes, ordered and chaotic, separated by a critical phase transition. Critical genetic networks seem optimal for a number of reasons: They optimize information storage, they optimize correlations among their variables, they optimize power efficiency and minimize entropy production, they optimize binding the most diverse past discriminations to the most reliable future actions. Recent evidence is beginning to suggest that, in fact, cells are actually dynamically critical. In the marriage of information processing and a theory of self-organized evolving open thermodynamic living systems, criticality may emerge as a law.
"Reinventing the Sacred"
Billings North Lounge
Three billion of us believe in the Abrahamic God, Jews, Christians, and Muslims. One billion do not believe in a supernatural God. Billions are members of wisdom traditions without a God. We in much of secular Western society have quietly been told that being spiritual is just poor etiquette, not to be done in polite, educated society. How wrong. We have been spiritual for 100,000 years since our emergence as a species. Neanderthal buried their dead. Perhaps they too had God or gods. Spirituality is part of the essence of being human.
I will discuss a radically new scientific world view, beyond the reductionism of Descartes, Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Bohr and Schrodinger. In this new world view, "emergence" is real, as are a natural understanding of the origin of life, of agency and with it doing, choosing, meaning and value. Even more radically, I will challenge our Western view that all that unfolds in the universe is describable by natural law. The evolution of the biosphere by what are called Darwinian preadaptations, or "exaptations," and similar processes in the evolution of the economy and culture, are not sufficiently describable by natural law, hence are partially lawless. In the place of law is a ceaseless creativity, a self-consistent co-construction into what I call the Adjacent Possible of a universe indefinitely open upward into complex entities.
This lecture has been brought to our campus by the Dan and Carole Burack President's Distinguished Lecture Series.